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History of College Football Bowl Games
Today, bowl games are an integral part of college football, and it's hard to imagine there was once a time when they didn't exist. But the concept of having an extensive postseason and rating the teams is actually a relatively new concept.
Although college football dates well back into the 19th century, where in was big in the Ivy League schools, it wasn't until the early 20th century that the idea to stage a bowl game occurred. On Jan. 1, 1902, the very first Rose Bowl was played, and Michigan crushed Stanford 49-0. This also introduced the concept of having teams from different conferences play each other in the postseason, as the modern Rose Bowl is a matchup between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
However, this first Rose Bowl turned out to be a huge flop. The lopsided score made for disinterested spectators, and for the next several year Roman-style chariot races were held instead.
But after a few years, the demand for a second Rose Bowl was back, and the game has been played every year since 1916.
As the Rose Bowl started to blossom into a major event, other parts of the country emulated the idea, and the 1930s saw the addition of several new bowl games. Notable upstarts from this period include the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, which both played their inaugural games on New Year's Day of 1935. Like the Rose Bowl, these new bowls included conference tie-ins.
There was a gradual expansion of games throughout the following decades, but there was an absolute explosion of new bowls in the 1990s. By this point, teams no longer had to be conference champions to be in a bowl game; there were enough so that teams that barely had winning records could qualify.
Much of this growth was due to corporate sponsorships, which made the games financially feasible, if not desirable. An early example of this was the California Raisin Bowl, which was a result of the California Raisin Advisory Board buying the naming rights.
As of the 2011 season, there are a whopping 35 bowl games.
In recent years, bowl games have also taken on a greater importance, and they are now used to determine the national champion. This wasn't always the case; before the 1998 season, the top two teams in the country would rarely face off in the postseason, so in some years more than one team could make a claim as the best in the country.
Today, the BCS uses polls and computer ratings to rank the top teams. These top colleges are then invited to play in one of the five biggest games, which are dubbed "BCS bowls," and the very two best teams play in the BCS National Championship Game.
Bowl Game Statistics
With so many modern bowl games, it's difficult to keep track of everything. However, some teams that have excelled in college football's postseason include USC with 24 Rose Bowl wins, Alabama with eight Sugar Bowl wins, and Oklahoma with 18 Orange Bowl wins.
When looking at the most appearances in all bowl games combined, Alabama leads with 58. Texas and Tennessee tie for second with 49 each. Not surprisingly, Alabama also holds the record for most bowl wins with 32.
During the BCS Era, Florida and LSU are the only schools to win the national championship twice. However, Oklahoma has played in the championship four times, but only has one victory.
Floyd Saunders is a college football fanatic, and he closely follows the bowl games every year.
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